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    But His Colon Is the Decider

    bush_comma.jpgQuote: “911 changed everything — into punctuation.” Jon Stewart.

    Figure of Speech: paraprosdokian (pa-ra-prose-dokian), the surprise-ending figure.

    “I like to tell people,” says President Bush, “when the final history is written on Iraq, it’ll look just like a comma.”  Stewart riffs off that strange line with a paraprosdokian, a figure that takes a cliché and sticks on a surprise ending.

    P.G. Wodehouse was a master of it.  “She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes,” he said, “and forgot to say when.”  Another great paraprosodkianist was Dame Rose Macaulay”  “It was a book to kill time for those who like it better dead,” she snarked once.

    Once you get the knack for this, you can become an instant wit — like Oscar Wilde, who upon reading Dickens’ Little Curiosity Shop said one “had to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.”

    That’s the same tragic feeling Figaro has when he hears Mr. Bush speak.

    Snappy Answer:  “What do you mean by ‘final’?”

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    Reader Comments (1)

    October 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterashling

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